Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Women and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

President Nelson told the women of the Church in the last general conference, “I entreat you to study prayerfully all the truths you can find about priesthood power. You might begin with Doctrine and Covenants sections 84 and 107.”  Section 84 was designated by the Prophet Joseph Smith as “a revelation on priesthood” and contains what is known as the “oath and covenant of the priesthood.”  This is in particular this promise from the Lord: “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.”  Those who “receive this priesthood” will ultimately receive the Father and Jesus promises, “Therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood” (v33-40).  The Father covenants His greatest blessings to those who faithfully receive this priesthood.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Epistles of John

 Though the epistles of John do not name him as the author, he is widely accepted as such in part because the language is so similar to the gospel of John.  For example, John recorded these words of the Savior to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In his epistle, John reiterated this central teaching of the gospel saying this in very similar language: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).  The parallels between the gospel and 1st epistle of John is most evident in those chapters describing the final teachings of the Savior before His death.  The themes of love, obedience, sacrifice, keeping the commandments, and overcoming the world are present in both texts, testifying of their importance for us.  Here are some of the parallel teachings that I see:

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Opportunities to Serve

As I think about what blessings have come to me because of the Restoration of the gospel in these latter days in response to President Nelson’s invitation, one that comes to mind is the opportunity and challenge to serve.  President Hinckley once noted that “activity is the genius of this Church. It is the process by which we grow.”  He wasn’t referring just to any type of activity but service in the Church through callings, activities, service projects, and other engagement that invites members to be active participants.  Our wards and stakes in the Church are not run by some elite group that does everything; rather, we all can be, if we choose, active  participants in building the kingdom, serving others, and leading others to the Savior.  In the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, given in 1831 as the Church was in its infancy, the Lord expressed His desire that “might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:20).  The Lord wants us all participating; He wants us all to not only speak in His name but to act and serve and teach others in His name. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Go To Work and Build

One of my favorite lines from the story of the brother of Jared is this simple instruction from the Lord: “Go to work and build.”  This was given after the prophet was chastised for not calling upon the Lord as he should have during a four year period in tents upon the seashore.  During this time the group had made no progress in making it to the promised land, and after repenting the brother of Jared was given this direction to get to work.  The command is applicable to all of us as we seek to learn and do the will of the Lord in our lives—if we want to make it to our own “promised land,” the future that God has prepared for us, we must likewise learn to go to work and build that future.  The Jaredites did just that: “Jared did go to work, and also his brethren, and built barges after the manner which they had built, according to the instructions of the Lord” (Ether 2:16).  Of course they never could have made it to the promised land without the miraculous power of the Lord, preserving their lives upon the ocean and blowing them continually in the right direction, but the Lord required first their best work before He did show forth His power in doing “great things… in bringing them across the great deep into the promised land” (Ether 7:27).

Friday, December 6, 2019

Teachings on Love: Mormon, John, and Paul

John wrote in his first general epistle, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God…. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).  This language is familiar to the Book of Mormon reader, for Mormon invited us in this powerful invitation: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love… that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:48).  The language in these two passages is very similar, both speaking of obtaining love from the Father, becoming the sons of God, seeing the Savior as He is and being like Him when He appears, and becoming purified as the Savior is. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Moroni's Justified Letter to Pahoran

I have written before about Moroni’s letter to Pahoran recorded in Alma 60 and suggested that it proved to be a source of revelation for Pahoran.  Indeed, I believe that this letter written by Moroni was justified and exactly what the Lord wanted him to write.  Often I fear that the general feeling in the Church towards this letter and the return letter by Pahoran is this: “Moroni in a moment of rashness falsely accused Pahoran of being a traitor to the country, and Pahoran in return showed great restraint and forgiveness in his response.” And with that we mentally dismiss the letter as Moroni’s mistake and move on.  But the reality is much different: Pahoran certainly showed a noble character in his response and is justly praised for his ability to not take offense, but Moroni was not mistaken in sending the letter.  Yes, he did question whether Pahoran was a traitor to the country, but it was a valid question given the lack of support Moroni had experienced (v18).  And, most importantly, the letter was not just written to Pahoran and there were traitors in the government who were indeed worthy of the condemnation of Moroni’s letter.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

To Be With and Strengthen

The Lord gave this simple direction for teachers in the Aaronic priesthood: “The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:53).  I love this straightforward call to minister to others and though it was directed specifically at a group of priesthood holders I think it applies to all disciples of the Savior to some extent.  We should seek to watch over, to be with, and to strengthen others.  Whether that is at church, work, and especially at home, our desire as followers of the Savior should be to lift those around us.  The admonition to “be with” is I believe particularly important for us today when we are so often present physically but not really with those around us.  I see this verse as an invitation for all of us to seek to really be present for those we interact with, to put our phones down and be with them in whatever trials they have and to encourage them in the gospel path.  Perhaps this verse of scripture says it best, “Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings” (Doctrine and Covenants 108:7).  Whatever else we are doing, we should always be seeking to strengthen and lift those around us.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Light in the Wilderness

One of the miracles that Lehi’s party experienced as they traveled to the promised land was that they did not have to cook their meat.  Nephi explained, “And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children.”  After they arrived in Bountiful he elaborated further, “The Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that       ye cook it not; And I will also be your light in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 17:2, 12-13).  So why didn’t they use fire to cook their food?  One likely explanation was that the Lord was protecting them from others in the wilderness; having smoke and a fire could have attracted attention from others in the wilderness who would have been a danger to Lehi’s group.  They surely weren’t totally alone in the Arabian peninsula and no doubt there were marauding bands who were a threat to travelers. The Lord’s instruction to not cook was likely then a great blessing to them.  But perhaps a more important reason for the restriction was to help the group to remember that it was Christ who was to be their light—they didn’t need the minuscule earthly light when the Light of the world was their rearward.  Every time they ate raw meat their thoughts would have been turned to the Savior who miraculously provided the effect of cooking their food without fire. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

Was Omni Really Wicked?

The book of Omni is unique because, according to Omni’s own account, it is named after a man who was “wicked.”  No other book in the Book of Mormon carries the name of someone who was labeled in the text as a wicked individual, and that is the same for the Pearl of Great Price, and the New Testament.  In the Old Testament we could say the Song of Solomon is likewise named after a wicked man, but we don’t believe that to be scripture anyway.  We could make the argument that the book of Jonah is as well given that Jonah ran away from the Lord and did not want to see mercy given to the people of Ninevah, but even he did not (as far as we know) commit acts of wickedness but rather held a grudge against his enemies.  So the book of Omni is fairly unique given Omni’s declaration about himself: “But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statues and the commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done” (Omni 1:2).  Given this apparent uniqueness among books of scriptures, my question as I thought about the words that Omni left us and his statement about himself is this: was he really a wicked individual committing many sins or was he simply being humble about his own weaknesses? 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Glorious Music of the Restoration

President Nelson invited us to consider in preparation for the bicentennial next year this question: “How have the events that followed the First Vision made a difference for me and my loved ones?”  One great blessing for me that has come from the events of the Restoration is the music of the gospel that that has been an anchor and guide to me throughout my life.  I believe that one way the Restoration has opened the heavens is in the inspired music that has been written which helps us to feel and understand more deeply the principles of the restored gospel.  As a child I grew up on the primary songs and the words and melody of songs such as I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus, We’ll Bring the World His Truth, and A Child’s Prayer had a powerful impact on me.  I can’t number the times those songs and others have helped to give me encouragement in a moment of need.  For example, I distinctly remember lying in bed in the MTC my first night there with a bit of anxiety and wondering about the unimaginable length of two years ahead of me, and it was singing in my mind that latter song that brought me comfort and the strength to continue.